The entrepreneurial science writerPresentation Transcript
UCSC science writing program May 10, 2011 David harris @physicsdavid www.thephotonist.net The entrepreneurial science writer
The entrepreneurial science writer The old business models of journalism are in trouble This is an opportunity To take advantage of an opportunity like this, you need to be an entrepreneur Your business is you and your skills
Strategies Build and know your skills Know the market Market yourself Work with people who excite you
Tactics for marketing yourself Build a personal brand A personal brand is how others feel about you in their gut and heart Know everybody Do favors (but still get paid) Add value to others’ lives Be active in the science writing community Be active in other communities
Tools for marketing yourself Meetings and conferences Go to them Use them for the networks as much as the content Activities outside science writing Participate for the networking Participate to broaden your interests Social media Learn how it truly works Use it effectively
Your social media use Who in this room does each of these? uses facebook uses twitter uses LinkedIn has a blog/tumblr/posterous is in some specialist social network uses social bookmarking regularly posts video/audio?
What is social media? “Social media involves a natural, genuine conversation between people about something of mutual interest, a conversation built on the thoughts and experiences of those participants. It is about sharing and arriving at a collective point, often for the purpose of making a better or more-informed choice.” – Dave Evans
What is social media? “Social media is the media we use to be social.” – Lon Safko
Why care about social media? Our trade is information Information is flowing in new ways due to social media We need to understand those ways to take advantage of them It gives us new ways to think about what we do Social media is a disruptive force on traditional media
10 uses of social media for science writers Finding/tracking breaking events Reporting on events as rapidly as possible Observing remote events/conferences Participating in remote events/conferences Finding ideas and commissioning stories Finding sources Building community (among peers & readers) “Meeting” new people -> meeting new people Hearing about useful events Spreading ideas, generating secondary pickup/stories
Evolution of Information Ecosystems Authority relationships Trust relationships Personal networks Trusted authorities
The secret life of social media Key points: It often doesn’t work the way you imagine or the way it claims to It can be quite complicated and you really need to understand it to take advantage of it Social bookmarking as a case study See a full presentation on this from NASW 2009 at: http://bit.ly/9dip5J
Fundamental rule of social media It’s just a tool or It’s a tactic not a strategy or The technology is not the sociology
Corollaries of the fundamental rule Social media is often not about the content itself: It is often the meta-content or the distribution Social media offers a chance for you to be entrepreneurial in reaching new audiences (case study: book publicity) You’ve written the story, now get it to the people Social media can be particularly useful to science writers as science interest is a non-geographically-specified niche.
Use the right tool for the right purpose Q: When would you use a facebook status update vs twitter update? Q: What’s the main difference between facebook and MySpace? Q: Why would you blog with LiveJournalvs Blogger vsWordPressvsTumblrvs … ? Q: What’s the difference between email and a twitter stream? Q: How do individuals matter in social media?
It’s the community, stupid The use of social media tools is inextricably linked with the kinds of communities you wish to include, create, connect with, or be part of. The sociology is not really new in most cases. However, the power of the tools is much greater. There is a loose community of science fans who previously could only coalesce around popular science magazines. Q: What does social media offer?
Journalists’ concerns How does a journalist navigate the private-public spectrum that replaces the old private/public separation? (Risks and opportunities.) What is happening to the gatekeeper role of journalism? (Middleman problem. The importance of filters.) Can journalists beat the sources to breaking news any more? (The role of scoops. Scientists who blog.) What value does a journalist add? (Will “just the facts” cut it? Content vs. context vs. analysis)
Adoption of social media by science writers Where are the science writers’ social networks? Are you part of them? Why are science writers so slow to adopt social media and so resistant to it? How will you cope with being seen as the expert on social media in your next job, just because you are young?
Planning social media strategies Remember the fundamental rule: it’s a tactic not a strategy As a tactic, you should experiment to see what works. If it works, keep it up (at least until something changes). If not, abandon it (at least until something changes). Cost of failure is low if you haven’t invested lots of time. The tech makes it easy to do without large time investments. A social media plan should naturally derive from a communications plan. It shouldn’t take long to plan.
Collaboration An insufficiently answered question: How can science journalists use social media for collaboration? Tools of social media allow for easier blending of different media types Collaborative workspaces share many features of social networks Tools for other social media can be put to collaborative use in science writing. Given the technical nature of much science writing, many questions arise for readers. How can social media help with this?
Business models Like old media, still predominantly ad-based This means it’s all about eyeballs on ads and therefore about boosting traffic Increased traffic is used as a proxy for just about everything else, but how valid is that? Does it matter if it’s valid? Some new models appearing Content is a loss leader in the form of community building. Monetized through other options, such as events. Example: thebolditalic.com Relying on sources for content such as Journalism/PIO partnerships. Example: US News & World Report/NSF Paywall experiments are still too young to evaluate.
Tips for entrepreneurs Know what you do well, what value-adding you can bring, what your individuating skills are Don’t expect opportunities to be given: you must take them Experiment with low-investment tools Ally yourself with disparate groups and people Define a web presence Act with integrity Be confident, positive and happy Be ambitious Be passionate
Old media recommendations Books: Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, 2008 Jeff Howe, Crowdsourcing, 2008 Lewis Hyde, The Gift, 1979 Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action, 1965
Some new media recommendations www.mashable.com www.zephoria.org/thoughts ksjtracker.mit.edu www.niemanlab.org www.cjr.org/the_observatory www.readwriteweb.com/ @BoraZ
Advice via twitter I'd suggest the first order of business is learning to write a good story. Then learn to speak a little science. @mkraptl My advice? Persist. @tdechant By far the most important thing is to understand the scientific method, which is important for understanding how science works @chronsciguy New writers should learn how science operates in theory and practice. It'll help you spot things that seem fishy. @j_timmer Understand and follow "old media" as well as new ones--we still have so much to learn from them. @dcastelvecchi
Other stuff Some stuff from me: Secret life of social media (slides+audio): http://bit.ly/9dip5J What does twitter mean for breaking news stories? The ISS near-collision case study: http://bit.ly/bz6wEk Some articles: How Freelancers are Using Social Media for Real Results http://bit.ly/b0be4m Why Social Media Reinvigorates the Market for Quality Journalism http://mashable.com/2011/04/12/social-journalism-quality/ The Future of Social Media in Journalism http://mashable.com/2010/09/13/future-social-media-journalism/
During this class Who has read some form of social media in this class? Who has updated some form of social media in this class? Who had the urge to either read or post during the class?